‘The Boys’ Get the V | Review

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‘The Boys’ Are Back in Town

The Boys Get the V Review | To launch season 3 of the explosive comic book adaptation ‘The Boys’, streaming platform Amazon Prime and UK based immersive theatre big guns Swamp Motel team up for “a f**king diabolical immersive experience”. Warning – this one’s “not for pussies”. An immersive experience that might just literally blow your head off. It’s your chance to help Butcher and The Boys infiltrate Vought’s London HQ to smuggle out some contraband Temp V. Unless you get caught, in which case – you’re f*cked.

 

Date Played: 31st May 2022
Time Taken: 25 minutes
Number of Players: 2

 

 

Ultra-gory, scabrously sexy and liberally littered with expletives, the Amazon Prime adaptation of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s ‘The Boys’ comic books has pushed buttons and boundaries since it started streaming in 2019.  Now back for a third series (with the first episode due to drop on Fri 3 June, then eps following weekly), this is a darkly cynical, gloriously grotesque and twisted take on the superhero genre and for just a few days London is playing host to an immersive version of its particular brand of death and debauchery. 

 

But what’s it all about?

At the heart of ‘The Boys’ is a gang of superpowered All American heroes, known as ‘the supes’ who regularly save the day, to the delight of an adoring public who lap up the media frenzy that surrounds the shiny, super-suited idols. But underneath the Supes sleek surface is a corrupt heart. These heroes are the manufactured products of the Vought Corporation who pump the Supes bodies full of a superhero serum known as V, and pump their already inflated egos to bursting point. The Supes may look like the good guys but in reality they’re a bunch of dark-hearted whack jobs who don’t care how many bodies they trample over in pursuit of sex, power and a dose of V.

Only a few people know the truth and this is where the real heroes, ‘The Boys’ come in.  Led by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban on his best beardy, sweary form) these guys have made it their personal mission to bring the Supes and the Vought Corporation to their knees.

 

And Why Do I Care?

Because to launch season 3 Amazon Prime has teamed up with immersive theatre geniuses, Swamp Motel, to create an experience which promises to be explosive. And very possibly bloody. And almost definitely sweary.

As a huge fan of the TV show and as an even bigger fan of Swamp Motel (whose trio of online ‘Isklander’ games were a highlight of 2 years of lockdown and whose immersive show/escape room ‘The Drop’ was a beautifully built thrill ride) I couldn’t wait to see what they’d concocted.

 

What’s the Plan, Stan?

Billy Butcher is in town and needs your help. He’s got intel that our very own Foreign Secretary has teamed up with the Vought Corporation to smuggle in doses of ‘temp V’ – a version of the Supe drug that’ll give anyone superhero powers for 24 hours. Butcher knows that getting hold of the temp V could even up the playing field as he and the boys take on those dangerous Supes. But he needs a local squad to break into Vought’s secret London base. He needs brave souls. And very probably dispensable ones too.

 

Inside Job

So after receiving a an email mission briefing from Butcher himself, me and a few brave/foolish/expendable (delete as applicable) teammates arrived at Vought’s London HQ to find there’d been an incident. A very gory incident. A random body parts and bloody puddles incident. A security guard with his intestines hanging out kind of incident. And when our ‘handler’ also met an explosively sticky end it was up to us to figure out how to infiltrate Vought’s security systems, navigate our way around some mutant Supes and get our hands on some samples of temp V. Severed hands and bloodied eyeballs might have played a part.

 

 

 

This brief immersive foray into the world of the Supes vs The Boys is just that, brief. We were in and out in 25 mins. And this definitely isn’t an escape room or puzzle hunt – apart from a couple of short-lived searches for security codes and/or information, the immersive element mostly involves walking round blood-splattered offices, picking your way over copious corpses and being shouted at and abused by Vought operatives, who, fair play to them, threw themselves into the roles with both gusto and a varied vocabulary of insults.

This is immersive action very much in the vein of the show – gory, darkly funny and rude. Very very very rude. Those of a sensitive disposition should stay well clear but fans of ‘The Boys’ will revel in the show’s standard level of sheer filth brought to technicoloured life. Even for a short-lived pop-up promo Swamp Motel’s high quality production build is as evident as ever, and the sheer scale of the enterprise is impressive with multiple sets spread throughout a roomy office block.  And the cast is committed, fast-witted and brave. Staged fight choreography is hard to pull off at close quarters but Swamp Motel’s team give it a game go at the event’s climax and the … erm … appendages, that some of the cast are asked to lug around takes supe-level chutzpah to carry off.

 

 

Despite being an official Amazon Prime season launch promo and an event that will inevitably appeal mostly to the show’s fan base, there was surprisingly, and disappointingly, little footage from the show itself featured.  A video briefing from Butcher or an abusive warning off from top Supe (and sleaze) Homelander would have been a nice touch.  A little more time to free roam the various sets and admire the details and Easter eggs that fans enjoy would also have been welcome, but with only 4 days of shows and very limited tickets it’s maybe no surprise that you find yourself unceremoniously dumped out on the street fairly quickly, insults still ringing in your ears.

 

The Verdict

Direct comparisons with Swamp Motel’s superb ‘Isklander’ and ‘The Drop’ games are probably unfair as ‘Get the V’ is a very different beast both in intent and execution.  This is very much a guided journey with limited scope for audience autonomy.  But it is also still a filthily funny immersive adventure into the gory, grimy world of ‘The Boys’, where expletives, exploding heads and dick jokes are common currency.  And while we might never get to sample the infamous ‘V’, this is a satisfyingly bawdy appetiser for those of us who are frothing at the mouth at the thought of season 3. 

The Boys is running for a limited time and can be booked by heading to their website here.

itstravelti.me: Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant | Review

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Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant | itstravelti.me is a free puzzle, it’s like the online equivalent of a multi-part escape room. But with time travel. Navigate through 6th Century China, Egyptian zork-style tombs and the ’90s to help the time traveller, Agent 14, complete their mission and return to safety. The puzzle is split into three parts, each part will take roughly 30 minutes – 3 hours. There’s no time limit, take as long as you want to solve it, you can take a break and return where you left off at any time.

Completion Time: ~1hr30
Date Played: February 2021
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Hard

There’s something incredibly exciting about seeing a listing on Craigsli- I mean, Daveslist for a Time Traveller’s apprentice. Just like in the 2012 film starring Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass and Jake Johnson, I too was answering a mysterious call from the internet to embark up on an adventure like no other. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but that is definitely the coolest thing ever.

So when we received a mysterious email from one of the creators of Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant, we were very excited indeed! Al, Ash, Tasha and myself got together on one of our weekly puzzle-solving Sunday nights and all agreed to open the introductory link at the same time to get started.

Safety not Guaranteed…

Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant is a web-based ARG (alternate reality game). Not much is known about it, except that’s it free and it begins right here. As an ARG, it isn’t any sense of the word ‘traditional’. By that, I’m comparing it to other escape room type games usually hosted on Telescape where you’re pointing around the room and clicking on objects to interact with them. Instead, you navigate through a series of web pages.

To guide you along the way is ‘The Time Traveller’ / Agent 14 who is caught in various eras throughout history including 6th Century China, ancient Egypt and the ’90s. Thanks to modern technology, they’re able to communicate directly with you via a handy one-way chatbot.

Because of the ARG nature, it’s not the most suitable game for playing with friends via video chat – which is exactly what we did. It’s definitely more suited to solo play, or playing with people in the same room. But if you do choose to play with friends online, you can always share your screen or read the text-heavy segments out loud.

In terms of technology, Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant was really unique. A lot of ARGs are on the basic side, but the creators have pulled out all the stops to make something unique and fun to play. At each time it felt immersive, almost like we were really talking to some pour soul at the other end of the interface. Plus, no surprise to say we loved the 90s aesthetic. Ahh… The internet of my childhood! *wipes tear from eye*

The team has done a lot with just a little text and created a digital world I really wanted to explore more and dig deeper into. I am impressed!

Part One – 6th Century China

The game begins in 6th century China with a mysterious puzzle about the zodiac years. Your goal is simple – figure out when the heck your Time Travelling companion is stuck! We whizzed through this puzzle using a clue or two and plenty of Google and before long we were on a roll. Onwards and upwards to Part Two!

Part Two – Ancient Egypt

The second part of Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant was maybe one of my favourite puzzle levels in any digital game for a long time. But heck, it was difficult! Players are presented with a text-based input to communicate with the Time Traveller who is in a maze. You’ll need to draw the maze as you instruct your companion to progress because the maze gets more complex the further in you go.

Along the way we encountered different chambers, different mini puzzles, and some delightful roleplay elements. I like a good maze as much as the next person, but it turns out I enjoy directing someone else through a maze even more so! Especially when the maze is full… Of cats!

One of the fun things about playing this game with other players is we all ended up in different parts of the maze. “Wait, where the heck are you? how do I get there?!” we called to each other back and forth as each of us exclaimed they’d found something different. Here working together really helped. The maze was not quite as daunting when we divided and conquered it.

Part Three – We Have No Idea!

Wait, what?

That’s right – we couldn’t actually progress to the third section of the game. The puzzle ‘gating’ the third section of the game we found insurmountably difficult between the four of us. It’s a common type of puzzle (no spoilers here) that two of our party were comfortable solving, but the ramp up in difficulty combined with the fact it was already quite late on the Sunday evening when we arrived at it meant we gave up after ~20 or so minutes and put the game to one side.

This particular puzzle is probably uniquely and logically solvable, but again not well suited to playing with a group of four players over video call since it’s very much a solo-puzzle. I later went back and did have a second attempt in my own time after printing the puzzle out and pouring over it over breakfast a few days later. But I came up against the same issue, not being able to pass beyond this point. I don’t consider myself particularly bad at solving this kind of puzzle but this particular iteration just didn’t click for me.

But I don’t just a game for my own personal shortcomings. So I couldn’t solve one puzzle – that’s on me. Up until this point we had a great time playing.

The Verdict

Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant is a really unique ARG experience quite unlike anything else I’ve played in a very long time! It had it’s delightful moments – and an equal number of moments where we were banging our collective heads against the desk. But hey, a balance in a game like this is good, right?

In our particular playthrough, it was a little bit disappointing not to be able to fully finish the game but as I say, that may be an issue with us and not with the game – I’ll let other players judge! But for that reason it’s hard to comment on the complete story line. What we saw was a lot of fun, but how did it end? Argh! I want to know! *shakes fist at the sky*

Do we recommend it? Well, it’s not quite an escape room, no, but it’s incredibly unique and well worth a try… Especially as at the time of writing it’s completely free. Yep, you read that right. For a game that is at least 2 hours worth of puzzling goodness, you can’t go wrong. Give it a go! See if you can succeed where we failed!

Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant can be played for free by heading to this link here.

Escape Reading: The Treasure in the Shed | Review

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The Treasure in the Shed Review | Almost everyone has a place where they store the old and strange things in their home, sometimes a cupboard, or the attic. In your house, it’s a shed.

Date Played: 17th October 2021
Time Taken: 20 minutes
Team Size: 4
Difficulty: Easy

On our weekly (or slightly less than weekly these days as the world eases out of lockdown) digital meetup, team Escaping the Closet, our friend Tasha, and myself pick a digital escape game to play together. On this date, we’d finished our first choice quickly and so looked for a short and sweet free game to try out. Escape Reading’s “The Treasure in the Shed” seemed perfect. So into the shed we went…

Whats in the Box Shed?

The story of this short, play at home escape game isn’t about escaping from anything… No, you need to solve the puzzles to break into something. Specifically, a shed. The story goes that your parents and grandparents were avid collectors of antiques. Each fantastic new item for their collection went into the shed – a room you were never, ever allowed into. Skip forward to the future, when you’ve got control of the house. One day you discover a key and immediately recognise it as the shed’s key. At last! It’s your time to finally see what is inside the shed…

So what did we find?

Well, exactly what you might expect from a shed that’s had decades and decades of collectable items shoved into them. The whole vibe of the game reminded me a lot of “hidden object” style of games where you’re presented with a huge amount of information and you’ve got to correctly identify items within to complete the puzzles.

How to Solve the Shed

Treasure in the Shed is a browser based escape game, meaning everything takes place over a series of web-pages. It’s a little more complex than your average “input password to go to next page” style of game, but doesn’t offer as much interactibility and multiplayer support as escape games built in Telescape.

For our team of 4, we all hit ‘start’ at the same time, and worked collaboratively within our own system. What this meant was that if one of us solved the puzzle, all of us would have to input it on our own screen to progress.

Each stage of the puzzle game offers several interactive elements within a puzzlescape of intriguing and curious items in the shed. It wasn’t immediately obvious which were clickable or not – but this quickly became part of the fun. Clicking around the trying to work out which items you could interact with and which were just part of the decor.

Once we found each object, these would pop out onto a new screen offering a wealth of puzzles to get digging into. There were sound based puzzles, digit codes and padlocks, some ciphers, and some very fun map puzzles. One of the great parts were that although we were all playing from our separate screens, the puzzles definitely involved more heads than fewer to solve. On more than one occasion, all four of us were working on different screens but collaboratively solving together, which was a really nice touch. It elevated the game from being a fairly average browser game to something that has had a lot of thought and love gone into it!

The Verdict

For a free play at home escape game – we can’t fault it! The graphics were great, the puzzles were challenging and it’s an all round brilliant little escape game to play solo or in a small group, especially when stuck in lockdown and missing in-person games. Since this game first launched, the sub-genre of “at home” escape games has certainly come a long way, but Treasure in the Shed still has buckets of charm and will keep an enthusiast group busy for at least half an hour, if not longer!

The Treasure in the Shed can be played for free by heading to this link here.

Edaqa’s Room: Cookies | Review

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Edaqa’s Room: Cookies Review | At the end of Pleasantvalley Lane, on the outskirts of Pleasantville, we find a pleasant lady living a pleasant house. She loves cookies. And you happen to be selling them. Kindly, step into the lounge while she gets her purse.

Date Played: 14th August 2021
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Medium
Time Taken: 30 minutes

The thing is, I love Edaqa’s Room escape room games. From playing Prototype earlier this year, and Carnival last November… Each time we somehow manage to have buckets of fun! The artwork, the quirky puzzles, the fun gaming platform. All just…

*chef’s kiss*

So on teaming up with Escaping the Closet and our friend Tasha, we were excited to give Edaqa’s free game Cookies a go. It being free to play makes it a perfect ‘starter game’, and an example of what you can expect from their other, full priced games.

A delicious puzzle beside a cozy fireplace

The story of Cookies is very simple. You’re selling cookies and you come across a lovely old lady’s house. She’s so excited to see your cookies, that she invites you in to wait in the front room while she goes to find her purse. How lovely!

Except… The game’s tag line is “Are you her favourite flavour?” which sets the scene up for something a little more sinister than an innocent old lady buying some cookies off you. As you poke around her front room you quickly realise that you’re locked in. A few more clues and something very dreadful is about to happen… Quick! Better find a way out before she returns!

The game is shorter than Edaqa’s average room and takes place in just one location – the little old lady’s front room, complete with cats, blankets, a lovely fireplace, and paintings on the wall. While trying to find a way out, you’ll rummage through her belongings (a bit rude, eh?), unlock cupboards, and examine her shelves a lot closer for clues.

Just like Edaqa’s other experiences, the whole game looks and feels a lot like a 90s point-and-click adventure game, complete with interactable elements and a lot of very amusing humour. Yep, I definitely clicked on the joke items a lot more than the average player, but the tongue-in-cheek humour Edaqa’s Room is infamous for just can’t be beat.


Time to be a smart cookie

In terms of puzzles, they follow the same point-and-click format you may be used to from other at-home escape rooms launched over lockdown. You point at things, you click things, and so on. There’ll be buttons to discover, dials to spin, cupboards to unlock, items to collect, paintings to examine and so on. The best part is that you can see in real time what all other players are doing in the same space as you, with occasional nudges such as:

“Tasha has collected a flower” or “Al has solved the Window Puzzle”

One of my favourite puzzles involved a rather creative cabinet lock, the but sound puzzle was also fairly ingenius. The one tip I can offer is to make sure you click everything – we almost missed a few items as we hadn’t clicked on them, so click everything! You never know what might be interactable.

There was one puzzle in the game that felt a little out of place, and this involved outside knowledge which is generally a bit of a ‘no-no’ in the escape room world. I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but essentially we were presented with a scene, and had to say where the scene was. Except, none of our players recognised it at all – likely it’s quite famous, but the puzzle went over our head. After some very creative Googling I eventually figured it out, but it did cost us a lot of time.

Cookies: The Verdict

On balance, Cookies was a fantastic game. And… Err… Did I mention it’s free?! Considering how much fun you’ll get out of the game, we were seriously impressed. I’ll also forgive it any minor tech blips or puzzle confusion for the fact it’s one of the best at-home escape room experiences you can play for the least amount of money… No money!

But of course, if you enjoy it you’re absolutely encouraged to go and purchase one of Edaqa’s Rooms other games which was just as brilliant.

Cookies can be played for free by heading to Edaqa’s Room’s website here.

Ratings

Colour Zen | Review

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Colour Zen Review | A new kind of puzzle game. One that invites you to put on your headphones, relax, and find your way through an abstract world of colours and shapes.

Developer: Large Animal 
Console Played On: Nintendo Switch 
Number Of Players: 1 
Touchscreen Compatible: Yes 

Would you like to chill whilst being challenged? Check ✅

Do you like trip-hop music? Check ✅

Do you like touchscreen controls that give you a sense of power? Check ✅

Well if so, this puzzle game might just be for you. 

“Russ, Have You Seen This?”

I came across this game from an article my wife sent me, on Switch games that were currently free (or freemium). Most were action/FPS-based, however this one stood out for me. Curious to know more, I downloaded it and tried my hand at solving Colour Zen’s puzzles. 

Relax and Immerse Yourself 

You’re probably wondering why I’m reviewing this game. One, its 8 years old and two, it’s freemium (initially free, but then can incur potential costs when the player is drawn in). That out of the way, if you haven’t played this before it might be worth a visit, particularly when mindfulness is a large tool for functioning well as a human being. 

There is no story or narrative, it is purely a vehicle of 120 puzzles to solve, using the game’s rules which ultimately revolve around; combine matching colours to fill the screen. To progress, your final move must fill the screen with the same colour that the boarder is. There are a couple of variances that come into play as you progress but on the whole it is deceptively simple. Of course, it is far from that. 

Simple But Effective

The visuals are simple, but they are attractive and the filling of the screen of differing colours are pleasing for the player to witness. They serve the game’s greater purpose very well; to create a relaxing environment whilst your brain is being challenged. Additionally, the music; another simple, implemented concept, has this major trip-hop vibe which again, fits the overall concept highly appropriately. It’s the kind of soundtrack that I would be looking for on Spotify to listen to whilst at work, or just before I go to sleep. 

Amazingly, with all these (minimalistic) parts coming together, there were many times that I lost myself in the game, becoming fully immersed. Not immersed in a conventional escape room sense, but more so that I forgot everything else around me whilst I was fixated on the challenges presented. Again, considering the game’s mantra of mindfulness, it’s a great triumph.  

Swiping Never Felt So Good 

Colour Zen is primarily suited to touchscreen consoles ie: Switch and Mobile. There are non-touchscreen options for the Switch but they are not finely tuned and do not present any options for differentiation. That being said, I’m certain everyone would choose to go touchscreen, given the choice. The touchscreen controls are in a word, majestic. The flicking motion to manipulate the coloured shapes on screen; simple but oh-so effective. It’s certainly one of the many factors that draws you into the overall immersion. 

 

Colour Me Puzzled! 

The puzzles are not overly innovative past the core game loop and they do not present any large amount of variance. What they do offer however, is a puzzle-set with a steady learning curve, and something that is balancing on the verge of challenging without being frustrating, which again, fits the objective of Colour Zen appropriately.  

There is no hints system, however you can skip a puzzle if it’s too difficult to solve. The first two skips are free, however from then on, any further ones do incur a financial cost. That aside, there are plenty of video walkthroughs online to bypass this cost. 

A Controversial Or Smart Decision On Price? 

So as previously mentioned, the download of the main game is free and presents 120 puzzles. There is a cost to skip levels if stuck, however as said before, video tutorials exist to quash this. They cost 89p for 3 in case you wish to do it old-school. 

If your appetite goes further than the 120 puzzles presented, you can purchase one of their many other Colour Zen puzzle bundles, that can be bought for 89p each. 

Aside from the freemium stigma, I feel that with the bypassing method as a remedy towards paying for level skips, this can be a very cost-effective method of getting your puzzle fix in. 

For A Shape-Thrower Or A Shapeshifter? 

Because of its easy-to-pick-up-difficult-to-master style gameplay and lack of price, this game is suitable for practically everyone. For children however, I’d advise adults to block any form of auto-payment, to prevent unwanted purchases. 

Rating 

This is a game that is simple but effective. Yes, it’s freemium, but it’s easy to look past that; based on what is actually offered for free. If you are looking for a cost-effective game that promotes a simultaneous cocktail of challenge and mindfulness, then get it on your download list. 

Color Zen can be downloaded here.

Escape SC: Union of Recorded Lives | Review

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Union of Recorded Lives: we posses the secrets of eternal life. Solve our series of puzzles and you will be welcomed into the URL community. Prove your worth. Join us.

Rating: Unique!
Completion Time: 1hr 30 mins
Date Played: 2nd August 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Solo Players who want a creative ARG

Union of Recorded Lives was not at all what we expected! After previously playing Science Splice, Union of Recorded Lives came onto our radar as an earlier game by the same student society but one generally accepted to be a real hidden gem. But to be sure, it is nothing like Science Splice. This game blurs the boundaries of what is real and what is fiction, pushing players to question the very fabric of reality around them as they play. To say it’s impressive would be an understatement, but here’s why you should check it out.

An Escape Room on TikTok, Facebook and Twitter

Union of Recorded Lives is tricky to find. Put simply, your adventure begins on an unassuming Facebook page and a cryptic Facebook post with a list of rules:

  1. Use a computer and make sure you have access to the internet
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for hints – the puzzles are hard
  3. You may work in groups
  4. When taking the personality test, only two traits need to be developed
  5. There’s no time limit
  6. Follow the spiders

We decided to play in a group of 4 and once all of us had found the ‘start page’, the adventure began like a big online scavenger hunt looking for spiders appropriately on the world wide web. This led us down a rabbit hole of more Facebook pages, Twitter profiles, TikTok videos, and WordPress blogs – combining the best of what each social media platform does.

I chime in “Haven’t you people ever heard of…”

One of the things we rarely comment on in our reviews is the question of “how appropriate is this game for it’s target audience?”. Union of Recorded Lives is created by a group of Gen Z students aged around 18 – 21. I think they’ve nailed their target audience perfectly with a mix of sound and technology puzzles that’ll feel second nature to those in their peer group.

That said, even for less digital-native players, the team have woven in some ‘alternatives’. Aren’t familiar with all these mobile apps? You should be able to find a YouTube link with all the required audio/visual content.

Being in our mid-20s, we were very pleased to encounter a Panic! At the Disco song as an integral part of one of the puzzles and yes, I’ve got it stuck in my head now. So there’s a little something in there for us millennials too. Hah!

Overall, there were more than enough puzzles in the game to suit all different types of players, it just felt like a refreshingly unique use of technology to deliver them! In particular, audio puzzles combined with meta data puzzles, hidden things in long paragraphs of writing, and needing to interact with chat bots was particularly fun.

The puzzles largely were quite difficult, with a fair few really stumping us. In the end we used a couple of hints and due to a difficulty with a US mobile number, used one answer too.

The Personality Test

Let’s talk about my favourite moment in the game: the personality test!

Towards the end of the game each player took part in a personality test. From this point, the game splits into two different directions which I assume leads to a different ending. I have to assume as amazingly, all four of us had the exact same result, making it easier to collaborate remotely.

But this isn’t your grandma’s personality test – it’s a live RPG game in which your little hero has a choice of objects to pick up and directions to travel in. The designers went all out on this section of the experience with a brilliant browser-based video game sequence including slider puzzles, snake games, and maps to explore.

Here are my results:

Skillful Adaptability Score: 107.5

Creative Logistician Score: 65.5

Those who possess strong skillful adaptability tackle challenges head on, compete against the timer, and have a competitive nature. This type of person might be interested in buffing their creativity and logical analysis skills to progress further in their journey.

Escape SC – The Student Escape Room Club out of USC

Escape SC as a team are a really interesting group of people. I had the pleasure of chatting to them in an interview for Telescape and found out that they’re a student group dedicated to creating escape rooms on the USC campus. At the time of writing there are more than 15 in this student society – although membership is by application only, to keep the group intimate.

Union of Recorded Lives was created back in April 2020, so the team is not exactly the same as the Science Splice team, but one thing is incredibly clear – this group has buckets of creativity! Someone needs to go hire each and every one of these talented students.

Photo (c) Escape SC

The Verdict

We had a lot of fun playing Union of Recorded Lives. Once again, Escape SC have made something really unique and the best part? It’s completely free. For at least an hour (more like two hours) worth of fun, you can step into the wacky and wonderful world of the Union of Recorded Lives and see if you too can uncover the secret to immortality.

I look forward to seeing whatever this team come up with next, and have no doubt it’ll be just as special as this game!

Union of Recorded Lives is free to play. Simply head to this link to get started.


Ratings

Will Die Alone | Review

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Some memories aren’t meant to stay. We are our memories and our experiences. What happens if you delete some of them? If you change your past and, thus, your future?

 

I discovered the indie video game Will Die Alone by pure chance one day zoom-scrolling Twitter: A brand new game from Arianna Ravioli, a Game Design Masters student at IULM Italy. I was immediately pulled in by the trailer – call it morbid fascination at the title or just a sense of “wow this is different”, and couldn’t hit the download button fast enough.

 

Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders…

Will Die Alone is a little bit like stepping into the sci-fi world of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s a world where people can choose to erase certain memories from their lives – harmful ones, such as after a breakup, or forgetting a particularly rough childhood. This time you’re playing as the corporation that performs these procedures, but with riots at your doorstep things aren’t as peachy as the marketing would have it.

You play a lowly employee logging into their computer each day to perform the tiring task of erasing your customer’s memories. In this way, the experience was a little bit like Routes (a performance from Bath Theatre that premiered last month). You play via a computer screen, with the following:

  • The Daily News Bulletin
  • Memos from your boss (ugh leave me alone!)
  • A calendar counting down the days until you can quit (haha nice!)
  • Each day’s case file

 

 

Right or Wrong Choice?

With just a few days of ‘work’ to tell the story, Arianna does a wonderful job. Each day a new news bulletin sets the scene of the world, and periodic messages from your boss in increasing levels of emotion tell a counterpart story of the company itself. You’re trying to keep your head down and finish your work, but your character cannot shy from the truth that with each memory deleted a life is irreversibly changed forever.

Whilst you can see a projection into your client’s futures to find out if you made the right choice, often there is no right choice. A client is doomed from the start and no amount of deleted memories will change that. Forcing you to question the procedure entirely! What good does it do?

On my first playthrough, I’m confident I chose the ‘correct’ choices, but the ending was no less painful, in a different way, than on my second where I decided to make all the wrong choices and see what difference it made.

 

 

Powerful Storytelling Through Simple Graphics

One of the best things about Will Die Alone is it’s storytelling with such a simple user interface. You don’t need the flashiest of graphics, and this game does wonders with simple illustrations and a computer screen.

From start to finish Will Die Alone was a joy to play. A powerful short story from an extremely creative and talented game designer. The game also had a special magic for me, it’s no secret I’ve got a large tattoo from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on my right arm, and logging into my Dewitt Corp console to erase memories felt like being at the centre of a similar story.

Whilst not the typical ‘escape room’ style of video game we typically cover on this website, Will Die Alone is a game full of surprises and choices that will stay in your mind for a very long time after.

You can play Will Die Alone for free (*donations appreciated) on itch.io

Enchambered: Alone Together | Review

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Can you decipher enigmatic puzzles that require constant communication between you and your teammate to solve? Your escape is dependent on how well you work together to find your way through gadgets and clues to solve the puzzle. Using two separate devices, play with a friend on the couch or even all the way across the globe on the phone or video chat!

Rating: Creative!
Completion Time: 35 minutes
Date Played: 23rd June 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: For a brilliant (and free) 2 player browser escape room game

I wasn’t sure what to expect when loading up Alone Together, but I’d heard great things! When Borderline Puzzler and I hop into a Zoom call for our semi-regular puzzle game sessions… Usually on a Wednesday after work, and usually with a piping hot mug of cocoa… We’re typically on the look out for inexpensive two player games. Most recently, we played the video game Tick Tock: A Tale for Two together and from the beautiful graphics to unique 2-player mechanics, Alone Together seemed like a logical sequel for us.

Communication is Key

Alone Together is a completely free game by the creative company Enchambered that is played in-browser. The idea is incredibly simple – two links, player 1 or player 2. The game is all about co-ordination and communication though. Unlike other multiplayer at home games, what player 1 does will not trigger an answer on player 2’s screen. The game is instead about communicating what you see on your screen to help you both to solve the puzzles.

Beyond understanding the premise though, you’re on your own. There are no clues available for this game *alarm klaxons sound in the distance* …I repeat: No clues available!

I want to say you probably wouldn’t need any clues, but that’s not to say it’s an easy game. I’ve got friends who played and gave up, and know others who raced through the whole thing in under 15 minutes. The key to success is in communication. Literally: communicate every single thing you can see, and you can’t go wrong.

Borderline Puzzler and I tackled this one from other ends of the country and it was a very good way to play it. We used hand gestures and badly drawn squiggles on post-it notes to communicate with one another via a Zoom call, and it worked well. The game took us out of our comfort zone and most importantly made us laugh.

A Moody Atmosphere, as if Stepping Back in Time

One of the things I enjoyed most about playing Alone Together was the graphic design of the game. Both players have a different view of a stylised realistic desk space, littered with curious items. The whole atmosphere is moody, like you’ve stepped back in time into a parallel universe, like a high tech 1920s.

Player one starts with a clock, some cryptic notes scratched into the wood, notes on phases of the moon, and some vintage news articles and adverts for unusual concoctions.

Player two on the other hand has a barometer surrounded by scraps of paper, playing cards, blinking lights and flashing buttons, and a light bulb.

At first, nothing makes sense, but as each item is examined and used it will disappear leaving new objects to examine and new puzzles to decipher.

Image cropped to avoid spoilers

For a Free Game, Alone Together is Brilliant!

Even if I hadn’t enjoyed the game, it would get a pass for being free… But that’s the brilliant thing, I enjoyed it A LOT! It’s longer, meatier, and more creative than a lot of other play at home escape rooms I’ve done throughout lockdown for 0% of the price.

It’s good to see that since launching Alone Together there are two further games in the series available very inexpensively: Together Apart and Together At Heart. These two operate on a “pay what you want” basis which I love because it opens up the world of at-home puzzles to those who may not be able to afford (this frankly very expensive) hobby!

I’m already itching to go back into the Enchambered world of puzzles with Borderline Puzzler, and can’t wait to see what the company does in the future too!

Alone Together can be played for free on Enchambered’s website here.

Mobile Escapes: The Haunted Tunnels of uOttawa | Review

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Race to escape! University of Ottawa and Mobile Escapes challenge you to escape from the campus’s haunted tunnels in less than 60 minutes!

Rating: Educational
Completion Time: 55:18
Date Played: 28th June 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: Ottawa Residents, University Students

On a sunny Monday afternoon, one of the loveliest people in the world (shout out to Helen!!) invited me to play a lesser known escape room she’d come across earlier in the year: The Haunted Tunnels of uOttawa. This game was a partnership between the University of Ottawa and escape room company, Mobile Escapes designed to show folks around the campus in a time of global lockdown. It’s a charming little game, ideal for new students exploring the city, or those who want to learn more about the local history. For us, it was a fun in-browser game to get to know each other and hang out over our shared love: escape rooms!

Explore your new university through puzzles

The Haunted Tunnels of uOttawa is a browser-based game in every sense of the word. On every page you must solve a puzzle and then input your answer into a box at the foot of the page before you can advance. To track your progress, there’s a handy map around the campus detailing your footsteps and which buildings are still to explore.

For us, playing in a team of two, we opted to play with one player sharing their screen and the other co-solving puzzles. I don’t know if this method would work for a much larger team or if it would be better for all players to have their own link – but the more you know the better you can plan your own escape!

At it’s core, this game is an exploratory one. As you navigate around the environment you’ll bump into a number of ghosts whose role is to challenge and guide you through a series of university inspired puzzles. You’ll find yourself scouring alumni records, engaging with uOttawa’s social media accounts, watching old sporting matches from the football team, and so on.

A ghostly cast of characters

In particular, the ghost characters themselves were absolutely delightful – especially the names! With a running theme of being named for your department, see if you can guess which departments the following ghosts belong to:

  • Professor Juridik
  • Professor Curee
  • Professor Creato
  • Professor Anthropaul

Just brilliant!

Note to Self: Buy a Canadian phone

The only issue we experienced with The Haunted Tunnels of uOttawa was one puzzle towards the very end that required phoning a Canadian telephone number. Helen and I are both based in the UK, so to help us out we had to reach out to the brilliant David Ma of District 3 (you’ll remember him as our host for Something Brewing and Haunted). David quickly dialled the number for us and relayed the message so we could get on with our adventure. A huge shout out to him!

The Verdict?

A fun little game that serves a specific purpose – to introduce people to the university campus and the history there, but may still be enjoyed by a wider audience. I don’t want to mark it down for a number not working internationally, as I do appreciate the game isn’t particularly for a team playing from the UK, but we had a lot of fun regardless. I’ve learnt a lot, had a good laugh, and reckon I could definitely impress my Canadian friends and family when I next visit with my vast knowledge of uOttawa alumni (and ghosts!)

The Haunted Tunnels of uOttawa was a collaboration between Mobile Escapes and uOttawa that ran from December 15, 2020 to August 10, 2021. It can be booked via Eventbrite, and you can support Mobile Escapes here and the University of Ottawa here.

Russ Builds: CITIZEN | Review

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Four crime scenes, one thief at large, a race against the clock. Can you catch them in time?

Rating: Exciting!
Completion Time: 28:54
Date Played: 10th April 2021
Party Size: 3
Recommended For: Everyone!

Russ Builds is BACK! Following the success of Airlock and Endgame, in comes CITIZEN – a brand tabletop remote avatar game that I was super excited to play last week. Joined by the A-Team of Escaping the Closet, we took on CITIZEN this Saturday and (at the time of writing on Monday) are joint 1st in the leader boards with a respectable score of 14 points! Woohoo!

I really enjoy the games Russ makes because, as mentioned before on this site, they’re built with a lot of love. As a part time hobby, Russ uses donations from the previous game to improve on the next one and builds these tabletop escape room experiences from his own home. They’re delightfully clever and impressively high tech and more often than not- fiendishly difficult! Although that said, this one is slightly easier than any previous in this series – that, or we were on tip top form during our game session.

The Story

Setting the scene is an introductory audio file from your host Russ, who remains perfectly in character the whole way through the experience. The story goes that you, an intrepid team of detectives, have one chance to catch a mysterious super criminal known only as “CITIZEN”. Think Moriarty to your Sherlock Holmes. You’ve never been so close to catching him, in fact, he has laid a series of clues for you… Solve them, and he’ll hand himself over to the authorities. Fail, and he’ll disappear forever, your one chance to catch him gone up like a puff of smoke.

The Experience

CITIZEN falls into a category I think I made up, but that I like to refer to as “tabletop escape rooms”, meaning everything you need is on top of a table in front of you. No need to stand up, no need to look underneath the table. It’s all there before you. Via Zoom, you control the host to act out anything you’d like him to do- take a closer look, push a button, lift something up, and so on.

To help you, you’re also given a password protected PDF, the password for which you’ll find somewhere on the table in front of you. Within this PDF contains all the real juicy puzzles and clues you’ll need to find in order to ‘escape’ in time. I personally recommend you use two screens, or at least split your screen so you can see everything at once – oh, and a notebook would be handy too!

Some added elements to CITIZEN also include a playlist which is perfectly curated to ‘guide’ you through the mood of the whole 60 minute experience, ramping up in excitement towards the end- eeek! Another delightful addition is the audio file I’ve mentioned previously. I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I’ll just say this is also important to the game, so listen up!

The Puzzles

CITIZEN is a non-linear game, meaning you can tackle anything you like in any order! Awesome! At this point, this is probably my favourite style of escape room, or online game – it essentially means everyone has got something to do at once! One team member solving a cipher? Well you can move onto the next puzzle and save a bit of time. Of course, two (or three) heads are better than one and I think throughout CITIZEN we definitely needed to work together. In fact, there wasn’t a single puzzle that someone solved alone, there’s always a bit of conferring. What can I say? Team work makes the dream work. *cringes that I just said that*

Players taking on CITIZEN can expect to encounter a range of puzzles. In front of you on the table are around 5/6 distinct ‘areas’ to be solved, so there’s plenty to get stuck on. There’s a directional puzzle, a few ‘search and find’ puzzles, some codes to be found and solved, some wires to (very carefully) cut, and so on. Absolutely no locks anywhere in sight – another cool thing about this experience, not that I have anything against locks.

Overall

CITIZEN is a really fun game! Everything Russ Builds has made has been a step up from the previous and CITIZEN is exactly the same. I’m always excited to hear each time there’s a new game in the works and if you can find the time you should give this one a go before it’s gone forever!

In particular, I really enjoyed playing with Escaping the Closet. The previous two experiences I brought my partner, Player 2, who enjoyed them a lot but overall isn’t really an escape room enthusiast. I think the bigger the team and the more people to puzzle it over with, the better.

Another super important point is that CITIZEN is completely free to play! Donations are hugely appreciated of course, and any money donated gets immediately put into the next escape room project which is very cool too. So if you enjoy it, consider

CITIZEN can be played for free (donations encouraged) by getting in contact with Russ Builds directly.